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Am J Addict. 2003;12 Suppl 1:S53-68.

Current pharmacotherapies of alcoholism: a U.S. perspective.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and the Alcohol Research Center, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC 29425, USA.


Advances in the neurobiology of addiction and improved clinical trial methodology have accelerated the evaluation of medication for alcoholism. While psychosocial interventions have been useful to reduce consumption and support abstinence, considerable improvement in treatment is needed. Medication can play a crucial role in the reduction of craving and drinking and the maintenance of abstinence. This article reviews pharmacotherapy for alcoholism with an emphasis on the perspective of the United States. The opiate antagonist naltrexone, the glutamate modulator acamprosate, and serotonergic agents will be highlighted in this review. In general, both naltrexone and acamprosate have been found in a number of studies to be efficacious agents for the treatment of alcohol dependence. Serotonin reuptake inhibitors have not consistently shown to be efficacious but may be useful in certain subgroups of alcoholics. The serotonin type-3 antagonist, ondansetron, has shown promise in early-onset alcoholics but needs more extensive study.

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